Waterscapes: Aquatic Theater and Other Floating Pleasures in Late Imperial Jiangnan
Cervone, Einor Keinan
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CitationCervone, Einor Keinan. 2017. Waterscapes: Aquatic Theater and Other Floating Pleasures in Late Imperial Jiangnan. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the waterscape as a space of creation and recreation in premodern Jiangnan. The phenomenon reverberates across historical and personal accounts, in visual art and material culture, as well as in fiction and on stage. I argue that these activities, though often examined separately, should be understood as a constituent whole.
I explore the connections between water’s physical and spatial makeup—characterized by fluidity and boundlessness, acoustically and visually set apart from the terrestrial—and its place in premodern thought. Delineating these qualities, I examine the manner in which they altered the experience of amusement, blurring boundaries between performance and spectator, divine and mundane, private and public.
Each chapter builds upon the analysis presented in preceding chapters while reframing the subject in a wider scope. At the same time, the dissertation moves from the broadest historical span to specific moments in late imperial history. It issues forth an analysis of waterscape’s corporeality, which remains universal and unchanging. It then explores the cognitive perception and theoretical implications of water as a space of amusement in Ming and Qing imaginary and proceeds to examine the phenomenon’s cultural utilization against the backdrop of mid and late Ming socioeconomic shifts. Finally, it turns to the specific case study of the Qianlong emperor’s conflicted approach to the form. I identify ubiquitous underpinnings that are shared across moments and permutations of waterborne amusement.
Drawing from existing scholarship, the dissertation reconstructs the practice of water stages not only through its technical aspects, but also in the literary, social, creative, and theoretical contexts. It synthesizes materials from discrete domains in order to offer a contextualized and faithful representation of premodern Jiangnan’s floating worlds. From this emerge ubiquitous qualities to the waterscape—such as multifocality, performativity, and liminality—which render the waterscape a singular venue for cultural expression, as a vehicle for performing imperial authority, for worship, and as social currency. The phenomenon of waterborne amusement in premodern Jiangnan, this dissertation argues, gave rise to a shared culture that was greater than the sum of its parts.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41141530
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